Friday, 29 March 2013

Three candles.

I light a candle for the past.
For all that has been, that made me what I am today.
For those I love and have lost, gone but within reach, within my mind.
For humanity’s lessons, waiting to be picked up, dusted off and learnt from.
For courage, to look at all that was then, which is the only way into an untethered now.

I light a candle for the present.
For all that I have and am and do and feel, for these are my blessings.
For those around me, because they are a part of me, and I of them.
For humanity’s questions, and that I may never stop seeking answers.
For love, that I may touch everything with kindness and respect,
and so find myself in a gentler tomorrow.

I light a candle for the future.
For forgiveness from the children yet unborn, for the wrongs I may not have righted.
For time to make amends, and to make the most of what is left.
For strength to live fully, so that I can die without regret.
For hope, that I will live forever in a memory.

3-6 pm, 29 March 2013

(edited 16 April 2014)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

World's Greatest Dad.

It floats around a lot, that phrase. We see it on coffee mugs and t-shirts and plaster-of-paris trophies in souvenir and novelty shops all over the world. Moms are not that hard to shop for. For some unfair reason, it's always easier to buy a gift for a woman. For a man, not so much. Especially if it's for your father. So the t-shirts and mugs and trophies come in very handy when you've broken your head over what to get him for his birthday, for Father's Day, or for Christmas.

If you, reading this, are a father, you probably have received at least one World's Greatest Dad. If you've received more than one - all from the same child - you probably need to let him or her know that you've got the message, and then drop hints about something you'd really like as a gift. If you're a father who hasn't yet received one, be patient. It will come.

World's Greatest Dad. As I said, it floats around, and when we say it, we're pretty sincere about it. But here's the thing - you will only truly understand what the words meant, when, like me, you have lost your father.

1 December 1926 to 21 March 2013

Two years today, and every day I discover more ways in which you earned that award.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Tomorrow, right now, two years ago.

Tomorrow, right now, two years ago, I am awake. I am exhausted. I am overwhelmed.

Tonight, I am awake. I am exhausted. I am overworked - but I am in control.

Tomorrow, right now, two years ago, for the first time in my life, I am not ashamed to let people see me cry.

Tonight, I realise that it has been some days since I cried, but that I will probably do some crying later when I think about how I didn't see him in hospital while his eyes were still open.

Tomorrow, right now, two years ago, I am heating a soothing mix of half water, half milk, with honey, crushed cinnamon and cardamom, and a pinch of turmeric, for a bedtime drink that I will make for my mother every night for a month.

Tonight, I make healthy tuna salad sandwiches in pita bread with fresh lettuce and olives, finely chopped coriander and mint, yoghurt, mustard and a big dollop of not-so-healthy ranch dressing, and my mother and I sit at the little breakfast table that was the first thing she bought as a bride,  and eat dinner together.

Tomorrow, right now, two years ago, I sit down next to my father and talk to him softly so that the others in the room can't hear me.

Tonight, I know that he is sleeping and that perhaps he can't hear me. I will talk to him anyway, as loud as I like.

Tomorrow, right now, two years ago, the child within me tells my father that he reminds her of Snow White, and that it's a good thing his paunch isn't any bigger or it would touch the top of the glass.

Tonight, I remember that, and can smile.

Tomorrow, right now, two years ago, cousins and aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces and friends are arriving, and phones are ringing, and I repeat the words over and over.

Tonight, I know that all these cousins and aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces and friends will remember me in the morning, and though I am an agoraphobic who always dreads the phone ringing, I will pick up if one of them calls.

Tomorrow, right now, two years ago, my father is dead, but not yet buried.

Tonight, I know that though my father is buried, he will never be dead to me.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Amazing moths.

Not the most creative headline, I realise. And, as you scroll down
to see, not the greatest photography, either. But what IS amazing
is the Creator of these little wonders.

These are all moths that I've found just lying around my
building - most were alive, but even the dead one was so
beautiful I had to take pictures. Sorry for the sad quality of
my photos, I shot them with the camera on my phone. Perhaps
later I will try sketching/painting these, and share that with you.

Why was this Sphinx Moth waiting for me at the top of the stairs? It's a mystery.

Beautiful and pure ..

.. but, alas, dead, which is why I could turn her over for this shot.
She was on the landing when I came in from drying laundry on the terrace.

I nudged her off the stair so she wouldn't get stepped on by a less observant neighbour, and she flew off to a safer spot, displaying her pretty petticoats
A Fruit-Piercing Moth at my front door. Literally. No doubt trying to get at my strawberries.
P.S. Can anyone identify these moths for me?

Moth #1 might be an Oleander Hawk Moth (Daphnis nerii) or Sphinx Moth.
Moth #2 Asota egens? Or asota caricae, a type of Tiger Moth. Likes papaya.
Moth #3 no idea
Moth #4 Fruit Piercing Moth

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

An apology to the dogs.

Dogs and I have not had a happy history. Years ago (okay,
decades) I developed a phobia of them. I've tried for years
to overcome it. I've even figured out that the phobia itself was
most likely created as the only way I could express my terror
at something else entirely:  the Child Sexual Abuse of which
I was a victim at the time.

Knowing this is only on an intellectual level, though, and does
nothing to stop the primal terror that surges up within me when
I have to face a dog, even a puppy. I manage to overcome it only
under certain circumstances. Stray dogs are less scary, especially
if I pass by them every day. And for some mysterious reason, 
golden retrievers don't scare me at all.

All other dogs:  scared. Top of the list are black dogs, and
pet dogs. (So to all you friends who live in doggie houses -
I'm telling you this just once:  no matter how nicely (or 
how often) I assure you that I'll visit, I never will.
And tying/locking up your dog won't help, because that just
makes the dog miserable, which makes me feel miserably
guilty - and no less afraid.)

What we fear, we tend to hate, don't we? I've never really
"hated" dogs - in fact, there are a few I've been very fond of
 in the past (none at the time of writing). But I also love cats,
and so I suppose I picked sides.

I saw cats as clean, regal, independent creatures, with high
self-esteem. So naturally I saw dogs as dirty, dumb, slavish 
and menial. And then I came across something about dogs
in a book on Native American spirituality, on the symbolism
behind various animals. Dogs, the book said, were symbols
of compassion.

I've mulled that over in my head a couple of times, and  
sort of got the gist of it. Then this morning, I drove past
a mangy white stray dog, sitting on the pavement sniffing
at a bit of bread someone had dropped. It turned its head
to glance at me with its lovely eyes (all dogs have lovely
eyes, even Cujo did) and then turned back, but didn't eat
the bread, just looked ahead serenely.

I don't really know what about this struck me, but in that moment
I thought of Buddha, and suddenly I knew what doggy compassion
meant. It's not about putting up with human cruelty or ill-treatment
because they are the slaves and we are the masters, it's not that
at all. These are creatures descended from wolves. If cats are royalty,
dogs are soldiers, warriors. With their heightened senses they can
smell fear, they can hunt down another animal, they can do this
alone or in packs.

They can rip out our throats if they want to. But they don't. 

By that last sentence, I don't mean, "they don't rip out our throats".
I mean, "they don't want to." They can, but they don't want to.
And considering how very stupidly and/or cruelly we humans
treat each other, let alone other species, this is no small thing.

So now I understand what the Native Americans meant. I have
seen the light in those doggy eyes and shall henceforth look
into them with a new respect*, and a new understanding of
what it is that we have to learn from them.

I, cat-loving, dog-fearing human, hereby apologise to the dogs.

*From a respectable distance, of course - and no, this doesn't 
mean I'll be visiting the doggie houses any time soon.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Why I don't keep a gratitude journal.

Oops. It's the middle of March. I thought I had posted this on New Year's Day, but found it lurking within my Drafts folder. Better late than never, so here it is! - n

It was the most glorious way to spend New Year's Eve. Woke up. Got out of bed. (Did not drag a comb across my head. Nor a hairbrush. Nothing there to comb or brush). Brushed my teeth instead (but not with a hairbrush). Had toast and tea. Bathed. Wore black. Did some laundry.  Had lunch with friends. Sipped on chamomile tea alone at home. Read bad news in the paper. Visited my mom. Chopped vegetables. Watched some TV. Messed about on the computer till midnight. And wished myself a Happy New Year.

Yes indeed, a great, glorious, lucky, amazing, blessed, wonderful day. Don't get it? This is what I mean:

Woke up.
I made it through the night! I am still here! I was given eight hours of sleep and now I'm refreshed enough for another day.

Got out of bed.
I have a bed of my own. It is a bed I go to when I want, and get out of when I want. No one forces me into it, no one kicks me out of it it, or harms me there. It is a safe place, and I fall asleep easily a few minutes after I lie down. And when I wake up, I can get out of bed on my own, with limbs and muscles and bones that work. How glorious is that?

Brushed my teeth.
I choose happy-looking toothbrushes in my favourite colours. I have a pretty mirror. Even without my glasses, I can see myself clearly:  two eyes, two ears, a nose, lips and a mouth full of teeth. Everything where it should be and able to do what it's supposed to do. Nothing missing, disfigured, removed, bruised. I have the coordination to brush my teeth myself with my happy pink toothbrush, and spit into a sink that I chose, with shining chrome taps that always release clean water whenever I turn them. How amazing is that?

Had toast and tea.
I do not have to wonder what my first meal of the day will be or where it will come from. I have a fridge, I open it. I have an electric kettle and teabags, I use them. I know that the milk won't have gone sour, that the bread won't be moldy. I know that if I run out, I can call a delivery boy and have teabags, milk, fresh bread, sugar and butter all delivered to my front door in ten minutes. I know that if the fridge or the kettle break down, I can replace them. I know that if the electricity cuts off, my UPS battery will take over. I know that if the battery runs out, I can put a pan on the gas stove. I know that if the gas gets over, I can get into my car and drive somewhere nice for breakfast. How lucky is that?

Clean. Hot. Water. As much of it as I want. In a bathroom all my own. My towels aren't threadbare, and they smell of sunshine. How glorious is that?

Wore black.
As a sign of mourning and protest. I have the freedom to mourn, and the freedom to protest, and the freedom to show the world that I do. I have ethics and values that I learned as a child. Someone taught me - showed me - about right and wrong, about justice and fairness. I was able to go from child to adult without unlearning those lessons. How blessed is that?

Did some laundry.
I have more than one set of clothes. I do not have to break my back squatted on the floor to wash them. I have a washing machine that runs on electricity. I have electricity! I have running water! I can afford not only laundry detergent, but also fabric conditioner that makes my clothes smell so sweet. I never have to go out in yesterday's clothes. I never have to smell of yesterday's sweat. How lucky is that?

Had lunch with friends.
There are people who love me, and enjoy being with me. We can overeat together and laugh together and know that when the times come to cry, we can do that together too. How blessed is that?

Sipped on chamomile tea
I can afford those god-awfully-priced fancy teabags. I had access to the information that taught me I do not always need pain-killers or sedatives, that the petals of these little white flowers are sometimes all I need. How glorious is that?

I am comfortable and content with times of solitude. How blessed is that?

at home.
I have a place to go to, a place that I can call my own. How amazing is that?

Read bad news in the paper.
I am literate. And - the bad news in the paper is not about me or anyone I love. How lucky is that?

Visited my mom.
I still have mine. She is always happy to see me. She is brave enough to live independently of me. She loves me enough to let me have a life of my own. I love her. She loves me. How glorious is that?

Chopped vegetables.
I have my choice of fresh produce just down the road from me. Fresh organic produce. I do not have to worry about the price of tomatoes. No red meat (doctor's orders) but I can have all the world's vegetables on my plate. And all the world's vegetable peelings go into my compost bin to make less trash and healthier potted plants. How amazing is that?

Watched some TV.
I have a bloody great big flat screen colour TV. I can see every detail clearly because someone recommended a great opthalmologist and because I could afford cataract surgery. I can watch whatever I like, and absorb and understand everything I see. I could leave the TV on all day (but I don't!) and not worry about the electricity bill. How great is that?

Messed about on the computer
I have a computer of my own, that I can use for work or play whenever I feel like. I know how to type. I'm connected to a world of exciting technologies and breathtaking advances, with so much to learn and discover and be curious about. How wonderful is that?

till midnight.
I do not have to get up early for work tomorrow. How lucky is that?

Wished myself a Happy New Year.
I have made it to 2013! It took me nearly fifty years, but I made it! And I lived long enough to get to be a child, a teenager, a young adult, and now finally, a grown-up who doesn't need a party, a show, new bag new shoes new dress new anything. No plans, no problem. No alcohol, no problem! The new year is more than enough. And within that, the new season, the new month, the new week, the new day. How glorious is that?

All through the day, even the most "ordinary" day, I am so consciously aware of all these great, glorious, lucky, amazing, blessed, wonderful things in my life. Every one of them is something I cannot take for granted. Every one of them is something someone somewhere can only dream of.

That's why I don't keep a gratitude journal. I would run out of ink, of time, and of space.